THE EDITOR: David Muhammad of the Black Agenda movement in Trinidad recently arranged for Ava Muhammad, a representative of Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, to share her thoughts during the recent commemoration of Emancipation Day here.
Ava Muhammad – if what was reported was accurate – seems to be of the view that people of African descent should focus on establishing racial supremacy rather than entertaining thoughts of racial tolerance or integration.
Both she and David Muhammad appear to hold the view that the transatlantic slave trade has robbed black people of their personhood.
There seems to be many in our small society who share this view and are content to regurgitate this year after year as a form of perennial lamentation. They seem to be stuck in that historical time frame and either cannot or will not allow themselves to move forward.
Slavery and the buying and selling of slaves was considered an intrinsic part of a normal life in man’s early history. Most peoples, among them “the proud French, the effective Germans, the noble English, the dauntless Spaniards, and perhaps above all, the political Russians, have all experienced years of servitude” (The Slave Trade, H Thomas).
Slavery was a major institution in antiquity. Slaves built China’s hydraulic system and Egypt’s pyramids. The very first code of laws, that of Hammurabi, while silent on many other social issues, included explicit provisions concerning slavery. Black slaves existed in antiquity.
Xenophanes was reportedly the first European to write about the physical differences between blacks and whites, as far back as the sixth century BC. Both the Greeks and Romans were unprejudiced on grounds of race; they were insensible as to whether someone with black skin was superior to someone with white skin and vice versa. Understandably, miscegenation was neither repugnant nor unexpected.
Here lies the irony of Ava Muhammad’s skewed “advice.” Islam fully accepted slavery as an unquestionable part of human organisation (Hugh Thomas, 1997). Arab power expanded the trade in slaves.
By the 15th century, Muslim merchants, usually mullahs, dominated the marketing of these slaves. The slave dimension of West Africa was stimulated by the extension of Islam into that region.
Even before the coming of Islam though, West Africa had known and was accustomed to the practice of slavery on a smaller scale. However, Islamic monarchs such as the emperor of Mali and their successors to great power on the Middle Niger, the Songhai, ushered in a new stage: these powerful men had armies of slaves.
So again I ask and will continue to ask: why do these people not get their history correct and stop looking for others to blame for what they perceive as some sort of ethnic shortcoming?
Rather than seeking to cultivate an attitude of ethnophobia and hate, why not look inwardly and begin to resolve problems at an individual and family level rather than bear a grudge that can never be resolved. No one owes anything to anyone. We each have to grow.